You may be sitting here thinking, I’m not an apostle and Jesus didn’t appear to me on the road to Damascus, how does this relate to me? Paul shows four necessary qualities for any person or any church that will ever reach its community for Christ. We will only see two today.
The word means a powerful or compelling emotion. An overwhelming zeal or fervor. You can know what you are passionate about by what you are willing to die for. Paul was a normal human being like you and me with all the human frailties that we experience in the day to day of life. Yet, Paul had something that is all too lacking in nominal Christianity. He had passion. Thoughts of life and death, joy and sorrow, eternal life and divine judgment brought him to tears.
I would rather die than….
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Romans 9:3 (ESV)
You can say what you want about Paul, but there was no denying his passion and zeal for God. I would assume this was part of his appeal, he got people’s attention by the raw and pure passion he had for Christ.
This is in sharp contrast to the all too common blah, emotionless, passionless expression of faith in the risen Christ. Nobody is apostolic all the time. We are sinners after all. But what can we say when there is the chronic absence of passion for God in people who claim to be saved from hell by him? Claim to be recipients of his grace? Claim to be children of the God. How about a little passion? How about a little joy? How about a little emotion? What are we afraid of? Someone might think we actually believe this stuff? When was the last time we shed a spiritual tear for someone? Felt a sense of woe upon our lives? Had a little fear of God? Displayed in some way that we actually care about the things of God, the gospel, the church.
I am not talking about emotionalism or some contrived joy, but the real thing that flows from real gratefulness to God for his mercy to us.
I heard Paul Harvey say he never saw a monument erected for a pessimist. We will never see anything accomplished for God without enthusiasm and passion. The Heart of the Great Commission is passion for God.
When you cross paths with someone like this, you know it. They have an energy. An earnestness. A zeal.
One of my heroes is the evangelist George Whitefield. He shook colonial America with the gospel. In spite of preaching multiple times every day for years, whenever he spoke of the gospel the tears would run down his face. He was so earnest for God and people. Benjamin Franklin was an agnostic but loved to hear Whitefield preach. One day he was on his way to hear Whitefield preach. Someone stopped him and said, Franklin, why are you going to hear Whitefield? You don’t believe that stuff. Franklin said, I don’t, but he does. Whitefield had such earnestness that thousands flocked to hear his message.
What the world needs is not richer Christians or more famous Christians or even necessarily more Christians. What the world needs is real Christians with passion. The kind of Christian who could legitimately say, if I don’t serve Christ I’d rather die.
These are the people who make a difference for Christ. They impact their spouse, and their children, and their family, and their workplace, and their neighborhood, and their community. There’s something there. You know it when you see it.
Take a moment. Think of a passionate Christian that you have known. [say it out loud] I remember Dan Cummings. When I was in college, I used to go and hear this 26 year old preacher and watch him weep as he spoke to his congregation. I would put Abraham Thomas in that category. Is it any wonder God is using him in India the way he is? I used to sit in the front row at College Park Church. Frequently, my heart would melt as Kimber Kauffman spoke of the gospel. He would do so with passion and often, liquid would start pouring out of all the portals of his face. Guess what people in the congregation thought? This guy really believes this and they flocked to the church.
The world is dying for something to believe in and the gospel of Jesus Christ is so massive and beautiful, that when we claim to believe it but have no passion, their conclusion is that it must not be true.
Where does a lifestyle of passion for God and passion for the great commission come from? It comes from the gospel itself. It flows from a personal brokenness over our sin. Not just generic sin but my sin, my unfaithfulness, my pride, my rebellion, my lusts, my everything. To think that God would love somebody like me. That Christ would die for “such a worm as I.” Passion is the natural by-product of astonishment of God’s love for me. This same Paul said, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15). To meet Paul was to meet a guy who still remembered that he had aided in the murder of Stephen and had persecuted the church, thrown Christians in jail, lived in the pride of religious accomplishment. Paul never got over the gospel of God’s grace to him.
That is why Christian passion is not contrived. It’s humble and real and earnest. I’d rather die than not serve Christ. Passion. Are you passionate for God? Great Commission? Building the church? Reaching people?
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.